Angles was originally founded as a reproductive health care clinic called Links — North Shore Youth Health Service. The clinic opened its doors in 1973 in the basement of Northfield’s Josselyn Center after a local needs assessment indicated that area youth had a need for confidential, affordable services related to family planning and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. The original mission statement was “to provide charitable, educational, and scientific services relative to drug abuse, sex life, and personal responsibility.”
The early years of the organization were marked by controversy, with opponents claiming that the clinic encouraged promiscuity and supporters citing young people’s need for and legal right to confidential reproductive health care. Meanwhile, the clinic was seeing over between 120 and 170 pregnant teens each year. Happily, times have changed, and with improved health education and the increased availability of contraception, Angles now sees just 10-20 pregnant clients a year.
David Littman, MD was the lead physician when the clinic first opened. At the end of 1974, the Board determined that a more formal position was needed, and Martin Kass, MD was named the first Medical Director in February of 1975. In 1995, Dr. Kass retired and Loren Hutter, MD was appointed to the position, which he still holds today.
While the clinic was initially offered to young women in high school, it has expanded over the years. A clinic for young men was added in 1997, providing testing and treatment for the most common sexually transmitted infections. Reflecting an increasing number of young people facing financial challenges, the clinic now serves teens and young adults up to age 25 — about 500 clients a year.
Our Community Education program began in 1974 with “Links on Wheels,” a program in which trained volunteers gave educational presentations about birth control and “venereal disease” to young people through schools and community groups. Our program reached 239 students that first year. Today, our Community Education Program offers 15 different programs to grades 5-12, covering responsible decision-making, building healthy relationships, and practical issues such as the prevention of substance abuse, acquaintance rape, sexually transmitted infections, and unplanned pregnancy. Our Community Education programs reach over 13,000 students each year.
In 1991, Links partnered with other local organizations to create the Young Parent Mentor Program, which matched parenting teens with adult mentors from the community. The program was discontinued in 2009 due to decreasing demand.
The Pride Youth Program, which provides support and education for teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), was founded in 1993 after a local high school student pointed out that there were no community services available to address the needs of this population. The Pride Youth Program now reaches 150 to 200 LGBT youth a year with weekly meetings for high school students in Evanston, Gurnee, Northfield, and Palatine, and weekly meetings for middle school students in Evanston and Northbrook. Staff and volunteers provide ongoing support and education regarding the coming out process, dealing with discrimination, building healthy relationships, and the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
In 2013, the organization celebrated its 40th anniversary year. As we reflected on how our work has evolved through the years, we recognized that we had outgrown the original name of the organization, chosen so many years ago. We also recognized that what hadn’t changed: young people concerned with their sexuality want options, perspectives, choices – and genuine, informative interactions with supportive adults.
In May of 2014, Links became Angles. Our programs, address, telephone number, and staff remain the same. Our new name reflects our renewed commitment that regardless of which program they engage in, whether they are concerned about sexual health or sexual identity, the teens and young adults we serve will find the help and guidance they need to think things through from every angle, so they can find what’s right for them.